Hundreds of patients hospitalised in India with a mystery illness have been found to have excessive amounts of lead and nickel in their blood, health officials say.
Authorities in Andhra Pradesh, where more than 500 people have been suffering fits and nausea, say lead and nickel in food or drinking water might be behind the mystery condition.
The preliminary findings by medical experts suggested that these metals could have been responsible for the illness that resulted in many people falling unconscious in the town of Eluru on Saturday, a statement from the Andhra Pradesh chief minister’s office said.
Patients reported a range of symptoms, including seizures and nausea.
“More tests are being conducted by [the] Indian Institute of Chemical Technology and other institutes and the results are expected soon,” the release said.
Of the 505 people affected, 370 had recovered and others are still being treated in hospitals, said Himanshu Shukla, a local administration official in Eluru. One person has died.
It was not yet clear what had led to the high lead and nickel content in the patients’ blood samples and investigations were continuing, Mr Shukla said.
A special sanitation drive, including testing of water sources, was being conducted in Eluru and surrounding rural areas where a bulk of the cases occurred, he said.
Earlier, authorities collected samples of milk and drinking water from various points across Eluru for testing and set up a “control room” to monitor the issue. Schools and colleges were closed this week and a door-to-door survey launched to identify people who had suffered from the illness.
It was not immediately clear whether the illness could be infectious, and if so, how it might be transmitted.
The mystery illness came as India continued to battle the pandemic, with the world’s second-highest number of infections. Andhra Pradesh is one of its worst-affected states.